Monthly Archives: December 2018


Darning for stress-relief

I have been suffering from a lot of stress and anxiety this year and whilst I’m feeling a lot better now I am trying to ensure that I don’t end up back in a bad place. Part of my therapy is to spend more time doing things I enjoy and find relaxing.

I have always enjoyed hand sewing even though I wouldn’t class myself as particularly neat. It’s relaxing and I enjoy making small objects as well as needlepoint. I stopped crafting earlier in the year because at the time uncompleted projects just seemed to add to my stress levels. I also struggle to see details in the dim light of the low wattage energy saving light bulbs. I literally had a “light bulb moment” and decided to invest in a daylight-bulb lamp. This has enabled me to start crafting again.

Several months ago I decided to throw out all the holey or torn socks and underwear. They got put into a bag and have just sat there waiting for me to do something with them. Bearing in mind that I am not going to be buying any new clothes next year I decided to to practice mending on the old socks. It didn’t matter if I messed up because the socks were going to be thrown anyway.

I have an old darning mushroom like this one which I inherited from my gran because it fascinated me. I have mended the odd toe hole but it has spent most of the last two decades sat in my sewing box. Most online instructions suggest using darning wool for socks, this is relatively expensive for large amounts of mending and a bit too thick for the thin socks I wear. I just got ordinary matching cotton and began darning. There are many online tutorials on how to darn by more experienced menders than myself so I won’t go into details.

Over the last few weeks I have repaired around 20 or so socks. I haven’t repaired socks that were uncomfortable or had loose elastic as that would be pointless. The socks with small holes are quite comfortable and the repairs are barely noticeable. I haven’t worn the ones yet that have more extensive repairs.

It is a mindful exercise which I have found really enjoyable. Not only does it help me concentrate on the present moment but I get a real sense of satisfaction when I am able to bring an item in use. I have expanded onto other items of underwear. I have learnt how to mend tiny holes that appear in t-shirt fabric and building up my confidence to be able to tackle some larger items.

I would recommend taking up clothes mending as a new hobby to anyone that likes hand sewing.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…

Norway Spruce – Picea abies

Many evergreen tree species are used for midwinter celebrations and one of the most commonly used and classic “Christmas tree” is the Norway spruce Picea abies.

Some people use artificial spruce trees which are cheaper and easier in the long term but they are made from plastic which eventually wears out and ends up in landfill.

Many of the real trees are imported into UK from Poland or elsewhere in Europe. In order to get to the stores for November they are sometimes cut as early as October. They are then sprayed to stop the needles falling.

I buy my tree from a local grower who operates on a very small scale. The trees are not sprayed, he cuts them when you select your tree. Cutting down the trees does make room for the nearby trees to expand and no trees are wasted because he cuts to order. It seems that there are more local suppliers operating this way.

Obviously the most sustainable option is not to have a tree at all, but buying a local organic tree does help to ease my conscience a little. I do also use other bits of the tree after the festivities have ended.

To date I have never tried to make any edible products, but people do make spruce beer and liqueurs. The tips are full of vitamin C and used in teas. The tree has many medicinal properties and is used to treat a wide range of problems including respiratory ailments, muscular aches, nervousness, anti bacteria and gout. Most tea and beer recipes appear to be made from the young shoots in the spring. I have seen people making syrups and liqueurs Christmas tree trimmings but I would suggest that if the tree is to be used for medicinal purposes only the young shoots should be used. It goes without saying never use trees that have or may have been sprayed. Spruce should be avoided during pregnancy as can act as an abortificant. I might attempt to make a drinkable product this year or maybe in the future.

In addition the tree is a source of resin and turpentine which also has medicinal properties. I have not used the tree medicinally before but will be on the look out for a tree I can harvest from in the spring.

Each year I do save the branches from the tree. The needles have been used in amulet bags, vacuum cleaner scent pouches, incenses and seasonal pot pourri and once I made a wand from the top. Spruce has particular associations with purification, healing and protection. Some people might prefer not to use the tree for magical purposes in case it had already served its protective purposes and absorbed negative energy during the festive season, others think that it honours the tree and retains some magic from the season. Either way it’s very much down to the individual. An average sized tree provides an ample supply of needles and often there are lower branches to be trimmed in order to fit the tree into the stand. I tend to trim the branches into small twigs and leave in paper sacks to dry. After a few weeks the needles drop off into the sacks. The twigs can be tied into small bundles and used as fire starters. If there are lower branch trimmings they can also be used in a seasonal wreath.

The wood can be seasoned and used as firewood or even as a “yule log” for the following year. This year I plan to saw the branches into sections and attempt to use as discs for pyrography. I bought a cheap tool a while ago and haven’t got round to trying it yet. I might make some rustic tree decorations.

I also intend to experiment with infusions and vinegars in cleaning products given its anti-bacterial properties and its similarity to pine which is a common fragrance for commercial disinfectant products and pine needles are used in homemade cleaning products.

I will create further posts once I start to experiment.

Further reading / sources